The Real Vision

A misconception that is spread around in many a Non-dual fora is that whether I know It or not, I am always perceiving God (or brahman). In order to corroborate this belief an easy analogy is given – whether we are aware or not we see only the screen when we watch a movie. As though watching the screen and watching the movie are the same! 🙂

While explaining a verse from the Gita, the fallacy of the above concept was brought out clearly with a forceful illustration by a Swami Ji. (The Commentary of the Swami in three volumes is yet to be published and hence, the details are embargoed for now). The verse says,

समं सर्वेषु भूतेषु तिष्ठन्तं परमेश्वरम् ।
विनश्यत्स्वविनश्यन्तं यः पश्यति स पश्यति ॥
— verse 27, Ch 13, Bhagavad-Gita

Meaning (Not word to word): The Supreme Self, the brahman to be known, is present in the same manner in all beings – from microbes to the Creator Brahma, transcending their body, organs and senses. Whereas the body, organs, mind etc. of the creatures undergo various changes over time, He Himself is not subject to any alteration. He is in control of all of them (therefore only, He is the Lord of All – परमेश्वर (parameshwara). Whosoever is able to “see” the Supreme Self in that way, only that one is the true seer. Such a seeing only is the “real” seeing.

The Interlocutor (raising a question): It is amply clear from the verse that the bodies of the creatures are vulnerable to change but brahman Itself does not. That shows the difference between the created objects and various creatures on one hand and brahman on the other. The bodies are the effects of creation. Therefore, they are illusory. In other words, they are like the silver in the nacre. I have a question here.

When I see the silver, after all, I am seeing the nacre only. Therefore, whether it is real seeing or not, what is visible to me is the Supreme Self only. How can then one say that one man sees the Self and another does not? How can such a differentiation be reasonable?

Swami Ji: Let us say that a person had a problem in his vision. When he looked up in the sky at night, he saw multiple moons. He feels very elated and specially blessed to be able to see many moons. He calls his friend in excitement and tells him that he saw several moons in the sky. His friend checks up and denies the existence of multiple moons. Neither of those two friends are aware of the problem of the defective vision. They get into an argument and, say, they approach you to resolve their dispute. What will be your answer?

Interlocutor: What you say, Swami Ji, is true. The vision of the first man is not correct vision at all. Even though his eye is seeing, it is as good as not seeing. He is unable to assess the true position that there is only one moon. That is the reason why Lord Krishna says in this verse that only the true seer is able to see the Supreme Self and not others.

Swami Ji: That is correct. Seeing the multiplicity is not seeing the Truth. The Truth is covered up and remains invisible to the eye.

***

The muNDaka upanishad also tells us:

यत्तदद्रेश्यमग्राह्यमगोत्रमवर्णमचक्षुःश्रोत्रं तदपाणिपादम् ।
नित्यं विभुं सर्वगतं सुसूक्ष्मं तदव्ययं यद्भूतयोनिं परिपश्यन्ति धीराः ॥
— 1.1.6, muNDaka.

Meaning: That [brahman] which is unperceivable, ungraspable, unborn and formless, devoid of senses or organs – that which is eternal yet of manifold expressions, all-pervading, extremely subtle and undecaying, the source of all creation – the wise behold everywhere.

While commenting on this mantra, Shankara pens a memorable sentence. He says: “The word by itself illuminates what the Self is and the mind has to abide as That to the exclusion of all other thoughts. Nothing further needs to be done after that. In that understanding, mind becomes a mere witness. All That-IS is witnessed as the Self only.” It is the same thing that the prashna Upanishad indicated when it talked about having the “spherical vision.”

 

 
 

39 thoughts on “The Real Vision

  1. Dear Ramesam,

    I’m not really happy with the metaphor and explanation here.

    Isn’t it the simple fact that Brahman can never be ‘seen’ in the way that this verb is usually interpreted? Isn’t the point that the j~nAnI sees the world and knows it is really Brahman, whereas the aj~nAnI sees the same world and thinks there are separate things? What impinges upon the retinas of both is the same. It is how the images are understood that differs.

    Thus, in the case of the shell, both see the way that the light is reflected off the inside of the shell and both would acknowledge that it looks like silver. The one with the knowledge that nacre can appear the same in these conditions would guess that it wasn’t really silver (on balance of probabilities) but the one who was not aware of this would continue in his (probably) misguided impression that it actually was silver.

    I agree that the screen-movie metaphor is not the same. It is most likely that both j~nAnI and aj~nAnI would be looking at the movie (and most likely that both would also know that it was a projection on a screen!). However, if the aj~nAnI really did not know that there was a screen and thought the movie action really was taking place, then the metaphor would be appropriate! (Acknowledging of course that Brahman is rather more significant than a movie screen!)

    The multiple moon metaphor conveys the impression that the aj~nAnI has defective vision in some way rather than Self-ignorance. And it also suggests that the j~nAnI will really be able to ‘see’ things differently. Whereas, the difference is simply one of knowledge. Sunrise is the oft-repeated metaphor to convey this.

    Best wishes,
    Dennis

  2. Dear Dennis,

    Thank you for the critical comments on the post.

    Your expression of unhappiness shows how popular and deeply entrenched this misconception has been.

    You say, “What impinges upon the retinas of both [jnAni and anAni] is the same. It is how the images are understood that differs.”

    What you write is based on the ‘model’ of how Object Cognition takes place as per the modern day science. Here the primacy is given to the object — an object exists out there and reflected photons from it stimulate our vision.

    I submit that the Advaita philosophy drastically differs from such a view of a pre-existing object acting as a stimulant. The seeds for confusion lay right there in mixing up a part modern scientific view with that of the process of Object Cognition per Advaita.

    As explained by Advaita, as you are aware, what truly exists out there is only one homogenous, indivisible and “immutable” Isness-Shine, (अस्ति भाति), commonly indicated by the pointer word, brahman. No object exists per se until an ‘idea’ (nAma) forms internally in a throb (we call as mind) caused by ignorance and the ignorant mind then projects the ‘form’ (rUpa) out there. The form gets illuminated by Consciousness and then a feeling of ‘I see an object’ arises. This is explained in Dharmaraja Adhvarindra’s text, Vedanta Paribhasha.

    Swami Bhajanananda explained this process with good illustrations in Prabuddha Bharati in Feb, 2010.

    Thus, a pot is seen to be present when a pramAta (I-thought) arises and projects a prameya (object) through the peep-holes of the senses. Not until then an object arises. If the primordial Consciousness does not split into pramAta-prameya, there is no object that exists, as the following verse quoted by Shankara at the end of his long commentary at 1.1.4, BSB, says:

    अन्वेष्टव्यात्मविज्ञानात्प्राक्प्रमातृत्वमात्मनः ।
    अन्विष्टः स्यात्प्रमातैव पाप्मदोषादिवर्जितः ॥

    [ anveShTavya Atma vijAnAt prAk pramAtRRitvaM AtmanaH |
    anviShTaH syAt pramAtaiva pApmadOShAdi varjitaH || ]

    Meaning: Prior to the attainment of the Self-Knowledge which the scriptures exhort us to look for, (we mistakenly take) the Self to be the subject (i.e. the cognizer within me. But that very subject, freed from all defects and blemishes (after obtaining Self-Knowledge), is the one which is searched after (that is to say, It Itself is the highest Self).

    Shankara often uses the example of double moons due to defective eye sight in order to explain the appearance of multiplicity instead of the Real Oneness.

    regards,

    • “As explained by Advaita, as you are aware, what truly exists out there is only one homogenous, indivisible and “immutable” Isness-Shine, (अस्ति भाति), commonly indicated by the pointer word, brahman. No object exists per se until an ‘idea’ (nAma) forms internally in a throb (we call as mind) caused by ignorance and the ignorant mind then projects the ‘form’ (rUpa) out there. The form gets illuminated by Consciousness and then a feeling of ‘I see an object’ arises. This is explained in Dharmaraja Adhvarindra’s text, Vedanta Paribhasha.”
      Ramesam
      The most brilliant and concise explanation of perception!

      • Thank you, Vijay for the kind words.

        Shankara talks about the vRitti concept, I think, at 18.50, BGB and the object perception at 2.1.1, taittirIya bhAShya. He uses the concept of AtmAkAra vRitti more explicitly, as you may know, in apraokShAnubhUti, an admirable short text.

  3. [Dennis] “The multiple moon metaphor conveys the impression that the ajnani has defective vision in some way rather than Self-ignorance. And it also suggests that the jnani will really be able to ‘see’ things differently. Whereas, the difference is simply one of knowledge.”

    [Ramesam] “Shankara often uses the example of double moons due to defective eye sight in order to explain the appearance of multiplicity instead of the Real Oneness.”

    Perhaps I’m missing the drift here, but Shankara is granting continued empirical experience for the mukta under the analogy of a person with an eye defect. Even though they know better, he suggests, persons with double vision may continue to see two moons where, in fact, there is only one (BSBh 4.1.15). The second moon does not disappear, despite knowledge of the true situation. The false appearance remains. Nevertheless they know that it is not really there; they’re aware of it as a false perception. Mandana also uses this analogy and so does Padmapada and later Advaitins. The use of this “two-moon” analogy to explain the experience of the mukta shows that in Advaita there is no such thing as what has been called nondual perception, that is, immediate awareness of phenomena as not different from the Absolute, i.e. Brahman. Phenomena may continue in the state of liberation, but insofar as they do, they’re experienced as false perceptions. Vacaspati also uses a disease model to explain the experience of the Jivanmukta. Knowers of Brahman may continue to engage in empirical activity, he tells us, but they do not believe in its reality. “For example,” he says, ‘even though knowing for certain that sugar is sweet, persons affIicted by a disorder of the bile continue to experience a bitter taste. [We know this] because having tasted [sugar], they spit it out, and then discard it.”

  4. Rick Riekert: “I’m missing the drift here, …”

    A simple and straight point is being expressed here.
    And the point is that the one who is besieged by ignorance sees multiplicity in place of the Oneness of brahman just as a man afflicted with a defective eye vision sees multiple moons instead of the one moon in the sky.

    Shankara uses the above metaphor at many places in his commentaries. For example:
    BSB: 2.1.27; 3.2.21; 4.1.15;
    BGB: 13.2; 13.27; 18.48;
    BUB: 1.4.10;
    aitareya bh: 1.1.1; 4.2.1;
    chAn bh: 3.23.1;
    kaTha bh: 2.4.11;
    prashna bh: 6.4

    Rick Riekert: “… persons with double vision may continue to see two moons where, in fact, there is only one (BSBh 4.1.15). The second moon does not disappear, despite knowledge of the true situation. The false appearance remains.”

    This part of Shankara’s commentary is not in contradiction to the point made in the OP. The continued appearance of the double moon for a short time even after the cure of the disease shows only the lag effect of the disease and does not disprove the fact that the original affliction is due to the disease in the eye.

    regards,

  5. I accept what you say, Ramesam, about the mechanism of perception. I have read Chittaranjan Naik’s ‘Natural Realism and the Contact Theory of Perception’ (all the way through!)

    But I concur with Rick’s observations about Shankara’s purport. Admit it, Ramesam, this post is another ‘back door’ into the world disappearing on enlightenment topic! 😉

    Best wishes,
    Dennis

  6. Dear Dennis,

    Thank you very much for accepting the differences in the theory of Object Cognition in Science and Advaita. I have a 54-slides long PPt giving all the scientific references etc., but I did not know how to upload here. I am not knowledgeable of the post by Mr Naik nor about his expertise. I can take a look if you can give a link to it.

    As you say, there is no dispute with what Rick mentions about the lag effect of the vision problem. But somehow, you seem to miss the fact that the problem had got to be there first, before one can talk of its lag-effect after treatment.

    Shankara precisely says that the appearance of multiplicity is like the appearance of many moons when an individual gets affected by the disease “timira.” He talks about it at over a dozen places in his bhAShya-s unlike the single instance where he refers to the lag-effect of the ‘timira’ at 4.1.15, BSB.

    I shall provide a couple of examples of EXACT quotes from Shankara at the end so that you can judge for yourself.

    Now that you agree on the point of perception in Advaita, you cannot disagree with the next logical step. After all an object (prameya) cannot arise by itself (as the Buddhists hold) without the subect (pramAtr) looking at it. There is a mutual dependence. This will end only with antya pramANa as Shankara says at 2.69, BG: प्रमातृत्वं हि आत्मनः निवर्तयति अन्त्यं प्रमाणम् ; निवर्तयदेव च अप्रमाणीभवति, स्वप्नकालप्रमाणमिव प्रबोधे । लोके च वस्त्वधिगमे प्रवृत्तिहेतुत्त्वादर्शनात् प्रमाणस्य । तस्मात् न आत्मविदः कर्मण्यधिकार इति सिद्धम् ॥

    When one truly and really “Understands” the Advaita message, the “aham brahmasmi” vRitti will erase the pramAtritva caused by ignorance in the Atman. Then the jnAni does not project as a pramAta objects, being completely freed from ‘bhrama.’

    Sorry, Dennis, the Truth will hit at you from all the 10 dimensions even if you keep your doors tightly shut. Therefore, what is really Real doesn’t need a backdoor for entry.

    ***
    Now couple of verbatim quotes from Shankara:
    1. “… the world of name and form, created in Brahman by nescience like many moons created in the moon by the eye-disease called timira, …” Shankara at 3.2.21, BSB.

    2. “A man whose eye is affected with timira sees more moons than one; and with reference to him, he who sees one moon may be specified thus, ‘he alone sees.’ Similarly here, he who sees the one undivided Self as described above is distinguished — ‘from those who erroneously see many distinct selfs’ — in the words ‘he alone sees.’ Others, though seeing, yet do not see, in as much as they see erroneously like those who see more moons than one. ” Shankara at 13.27, BGB.

    3. “These last words show that the acts of seeing etc. together with their results, which are dependent on many factors created by ignorance, are possible only in the state of ignorance, when the Self, the Reality that has no second, appears as something else, like a second moon when one has got the disease of double vision (timira).” Shankara at 1.4.10, BUB.

    4. “And since ignorance, that presents diversity, ceases on this attainment here in brahman; diversity, even so little does not exist. On the other hand, he who – does not give up his vision of ignorance that is comparable to darkness (timira); and sees as though there is diversity, he does (indeed) go from death to death, even by superimposing the slightest difference.” Shankara at 2.4.11, kaTha.

    regards,

  7. Dear Ramesam,

    I have long been aware of the thories of vedAnta paribhAsA – I did edit Sadananda’s long analysis of this beginning at http://www.advaita.org.uk/discourses/knowledge/intro1.htm. That does not mean that I agree with them or consider them particularly relevant. And I am not aware of anywhere where Shankara talks about anything resembling this. dharmarAja adhvarindra was, of course, many centuries later than Shankara.

    The Chittaranjan Naik reference is not to a post but his book – Amazon Ref. B07YFKHYSQ. Hard going but interesting in parts. I was going to do a review of it but never got round to it.

    I see that you admit that your post WAS a back door! I am not going to enter into more discussion. I have covered this metaphor in Volume 2 of ‘Confusions’ but thank you for the other references, which I will check out.

    As I already said, gaining Self-knowledge brings the realization that the appearance is mithyA; it does not make it disappear. Just like the rising and setting sun – a much less confusing metaphor!

    Best wishes,
    Dennis

  8. I think this two moon discussion rather aptly demonstrates Dennis’ confusion with Sankara’s teaching.

    The analogy is made, from Dennis’ perspective, that the enlightened person sees two moons, but KNOWS that there is only one, as a result of instruction from scripture / teacher. But it is evident that this knowledge is intellectual, it is never directly known by him.

    Before Dennis hastily dismisses this as not applicable to Self-realisation . . . Dennis’ contention is that the jnani has the ‘knowledge’ from scripture, that s/he is not separate from the whole. But this knowledge has to be a thought-form. And body-mind-thoughts are all part of the field and NOT the Knower of the field. The body-mind-thoughts can never know the Knower, but can only have a concept about the Knower.

    Hence Sankara, in his commentary to BG18.50 writes:

    “Therefore the cessation of the perception of differences in the form of external things is alone the cause of resting in the reality of the Self”

    “Had knowledge not been self-evident it could have been sought for like any other object of knowledge. And in that case, as a knower seeks to perceive through knowledge such objects of knowledge as pot etc, similarly the knower would have sought to perceive knowledge through another knowledge! But this is not the case. Therefore knowledge is quite self-revealing, and for the very same reason the knower also is self-revealed. HENCE, EFFORT IS NOT NEEDED FOR KNOWLEDGE, BUT ONLY FOR THE REMOVAL OF THE NOTION OF WHAT IS NOT-SELF.”

    Note here, in the second quote, Sankara is deriding the idea that Knowledge can be obtained through another knowledge (ie intellectually learnt from scripture, or sruti vicara as Dennis likes to say). Because Knowledge ( =Consciousness = Knower of the Field) is what we are. Hence all that can be done is to remove the concept that we are the body-mind.

    The removal of that body-mind concept is not about having an intellectual knowledge that ‘I am not the body-mind’, but rather a de-conditioning / attenuation of the instinctive reflex of thought arising to further me and mine. This is clear from another passage with 18.50 bhasya:

    “Hence, knowledge about the Self is not a subject for injunction. What then? Only the eradication of the superimposition of name, form, etc., which are not the Self, is what has to be undertaken, but not the knowledge of the Self that is Consciousness. For it is the SELF WHICH IS EXPERIENCED AS POSSESSED OF THE FORMS OF ALL THE VARIOUS OBJECTS THAT ARE SUPERIMPOSED (ON IT) THROUGH IGNORANCE . . IT IS BECAUSE THE INTELLECT IS DISTRACTED BY PARTICULAR APPEARANCES OF NAME AND FORM IMAGINED THROUGH IGNORANCE THAT BRAHMAN, even though self-evident, easily realizable, nearer than all else and identical with oneself, appears to be concealed, difficult to realize, very far and different, But to those WHOSE INTELLECT HAS BECOME FREE FROM EXTERNAL APPEARANCES and who have obtained the grace of a teacher and serenity of mind, there is nothing more blissful, manifest, well known, easily realized and nearer to oneself than this Self.”

    So Consciousness / Knowledge is what we are. The world-body-mind-thoughts are all superimpositions on this substratum – including the thought-concept ‘I am not the body-mind; I am Brahman’. Accumulation of thoughts and intellectual appreciation of Advaita through sruti is not what Sankara refers to when he talks of knowledge, as is made evident here. Sruti is a pointer.

    Rather:

    1. Appearances (including the jiva) are a function of ignorance / superimposition on Brahman

    2. Self-realisation = removal of ignorance = removal of erroneous concepts of not-Self = cessation of superimposition of appearances.

  9. “Nothing else is perceived either through reasoning or through scriptural statement, therefore the knowledge of this Self by the PROCESS of ‘not this, not this’ and the renunciation of everything are the ONLY means of attaining immortality”
    – Sankara’s bhasya Brhad Up 4.5.15

    When you eradicate the me and mine, through neti neti, what is there left to grasp or do or preserve? The not-Self has become an irrelevance

    “The knowledge which is devoid of both knowledge and ignorance, alone is true knowledge. This is the reality; nothing exists to know”
    Ramanamaharishi, Upadesa Unthiyar

  10. You seem to be making very heavy weather of this, Venkat. I have always said that the aim of scriptures is to remove Self-ignorance. Nothing can ever give direct knowledge of Brahman because Brahman is non-dual. It may be colloquially expressed as ‘gaining Self-knowledge’ but the reality is never in doubt.

  11. Removal of ignorance does NOT automatically equate to removal of appearance does it? As I keep referring to sunrise and sunset or seasons or eclipses or mirage etc.

  12. Dear Venkat,

    Thank you for the brilliant posts.
    I could know that the 4.5.15, BUB is from Swami Madhavananda’s translation. Will you please tell us whose translation was 18.50, BG?

    Dear Dennis,

    Unfortunately, whenever a discussion really goes deep, you slip away. Is that not a pattern we see?
    I have not “admitted” any ‘back door’ entry! I happened to be reviewing the work on the BG and I felt that an interesting point was made by Shankara at 13.27. Until your interpretation, I did not even have any idea of world disappearance.

    As Venkat kindly pointed out, there appears to be in your post referring to sunrise-sunset, a confusion between True Knowledge and stored knowledge. Now that you chose “not to enter into more discussion here,” please brace yourself for another post of mine on this subject.

    Apologies in advance.

    regards,

  13. Dennis

    Your “removal of self-ignorance” basically equates to learned knowledge from scripture that you are not the body mind. But that is still a thought concept in the mind, to counter the thought that one is the body mind. A useful knowledge no doubt – but until it leads to what Sankara refers to as the dissolution of particular consciousness, or gaudapada refers to as mind becoming no-mind, it is not the true knowledge that ramanamaharishi refers to.

    The jiva IS the ignorance, the superimposition. Any knowledge it has must be at the same level as ignorance. It is the dissolution of the I, which leaves only the substratum with no ignorance superimposed. Hence Ramana’s “knowledge which is devoid of both knowledge and ignorance”.

    I think Ramesam’s new post makes this point about knowledge clear.

  14. Dear Venkat and Ramesam,

    Your confusion is worse than I had thought, Venkat. Could you explain your ‘learned knowledge’ theory a little more, please. The entire edifice of Advaita derives from shruti pramANa. From where else could you learn that ‘All this is Brahman’ or that ‘I am Brahman’??

    Are you saying that this ‘learned knowledge’ has to be ‘converted’ into some sort of ‘experience’? That, together with the ideas of manonASha, destroying the ego etc. are just more confusions!

    Ramesam’s post does not make things clearer. Please explain the difference between ‘true’ knowledge and ‘stored’ knowledge. ‘Knowledge’ is only meaningful in vyavahAra and, wherever it comes from, knowledge is knowledge. Is Atma-Brahman aikyam true? for example? Did you not get this from shruti? So it must be ‘stored’ then. And therefore false? Please explain.

    Best wishes,
    Dennis

  15. Hi Dennis,

    My post at 19.32 addresses your questions. And with aposite quotes from Sankara. Rather than slip away, perhaps address the points head on?

    Let me also remind you of a comment by Sastri on the advaitin list which Ramesam pointed out some time ago. He commented that he – and others on the advaitin list- may be proficient in advaita, but were not jnanis. He went on to explain that this was because disidentification with the body-mind had not happened. He clearly understood that knowledge that you are not the body-mind is different from disidetification / dissolution of the I.

    Finally I think if you understand the meaning of the word knowledge in the context of satyam jnanam anatam, or as Ramesam says ‘knowing’, then you may get the point; though I’m sure you won’t accept it! That is what I think is meant by ‘to know Brahman, is to be Brahman’ – because knowing and being are what we are – not a knower with a known object.

    Best wishes
    venkat

  16. Dear Dennis and Venkat,

    Thanks to Venkat, I think we are able to really home on to the actual “bone of contention” between the POV of Dennis on one hand and myself and Venkat on the other.

    I wish Dennis, at least now decides to stick on to iron out the ‘differences’ as the “Outcome” of the discussions surely will be helpful for the volumes he is writing on “Confusions.” He may even delete or rewrite some chapters of his book.

    Yes, Sir, The scriptures and Shankara do distinguish ‘mere mental understanding’ vs. the true ingestion of the message. It is unfortunate that Dennis did not seem to appreciate the point made by me in my latest post (because of closed fist and shut eye?).

    In order that Dennis does not say that it is all my bla bla bla, I am just giving below a few citations without my observations. I hope he will study them (Using his favorite Translator) so that he gets convinced that the scriptures do mark out true Knowledge, (sometimes even using different “terms,)” from mere information gained in the mind.

    1. तमेव धीरो विज्ञाय प्रज्ञां कुर्वीत ब्राह्मणः । — 4.4.21, brihadAraNyaka
    Shankara: **The intelligent aspirant after Brahman, knowing
    about this** kind of Self alone, from the instructions of
    a teacher and from the scriptures, should attain **intuitive knowledge** of what has been taught by the teacher and the scriptures …
    [The part within **… ** are italicized by Swami Madhavananda.]

    2. ज्ञानं तेऽहं सविज्ञानमिदं वक्ष्याम्यशेषतः । – 7.2, BG
    Shankara: ज्ञानं ते तुभ्यम् अहं सविज्ञानं विज्ञानसहितं स्वानुभवयुक्तम् इदं वक्ष्यामि कथयिष्यामि अशेषतः कार्‌त्स्न्येन ।
    [please note the two words – jnAnam and savijnAnam]

    3. ज्ञानं विज्ञानसहितं यज्ज्ञात्वा मोक्ष्यसेऽशुभात् ॥ – 9.1, BG
    Shankara: किं तत् ? ज्ञानम् । किंविशिष्टम् ? विज्ञानसहितम् अनुभवयुक्तम् , यत् ज्ञात्वा प्राप्य मोक्ष्यसे अशुभात् संसारबन्धनात् ॥ १ ॥
    [please note jnAnam and vijnAnasahitam]

    4. प्रवृत्तिं च निवृत्तिं च कार्याकार्ये भयाभये ।
    बन्धं मोक्षं च या वेत्ति बुद्धिः सा पार्थ सात्त्विकी ॥ — 18.30, BG
    to be read along with:
    श्रेयश्च प्रेयश्च मनुष्यमेतस्तौ सम्परीत्य विविनक्ति धीरः ।
    श्रेयो हि धीरोऽभि प्रेयसो वृणीते प्रेयो मन्दो योगक्षेमाद्वृणीते ॥ – 1.2.2, kaTha

    Shankara at 18.30, BG: बन्धं सहेतुकं मोक्षं च सहेतुकं या वेत्ति विजानाति बुद्धिः, सा पार्थ सात्त्विकी । तत्र ज्ञानं बुद्धेः वृत्तिः ; बुद्धिस्तु वृत्तिमती । धृतिरपि वृत्तिविशेषः एव बुद्धेः ॥

    Shankara at 1.2.2, kaTha: यस्तु मन्दः अल्पबुद्धिः सः सदसद्विवेकासामर्थ्यात् योगक्षेमात् योगक्षेमनिमित्तं शरीराद्युपचयरक्षणनिमित्तमित्येतत् । प्रेयः पशुपुत्रादिलक्षणं वृणीते ॥

    [please note the two words shreyas and preyas in implementation of the jnAna;
    also please note the concept of vRitti in buddhi is used by Shankara at 18.30, BGB.]

    regards,

    [P.S: Because of ‘length’ considerations, I have listed only a few scriptural sources.]

  17. I do not keep ‘slipping away’, Ramesam and Venkat. As I have already said, I have written many thousands of words on these topics for ‘Confusions Volume 2’. It is obviously out of the question to reproduce them all here and, I am sorry, but it is also not possible to precis them down to a brief response to your comments! I apologize for not providing the reference answers to your 10 questions, Ramesam. I haven’t forgotten and I do still intend to respond. The latest diversion concerns my attempts to get Volume 1 of ‘Confusions’ published.

    The topic of these discussion has now branched out into the nature and cause of enlightenment and such things as manonAsha and witness. These have all been discussed at length before (I thought) and are dealt with in Volume 1. So you won’t have as long to wait, hopefully, before you can read them in all their detail!

    Meanwhile, Venkat, I’m afraid your quotations in 19.32 did NOT answer my questions. You still seem to have strange ideas about ‘knowledge devoid of knowledge’ and the like and I’m afraid this makes no sense to me. Shankara is quite clear that it is ‘knowledge derived from scriptures’ that give liberation – nothing else. kShetra (and dRRik) are just other names for ‘witness’, which we have also discussed before. You seem to have a propensity for taking quotations too literally. You don’t actually quote Shankara ‘talking about dissolution of particular consciousness’ but all that this means is realizing that who-I-really-am is not the reflection in the intellect of the jIva but the original Consciousness. And the irony is that this can only be realized in the intellect of the jIva!

    “For that wise man who chooses to attain AtmA, AtmA reveals its own superior real nature which is covered by ignorance. Just as objects like pot etc. reveal themselves when light falls on them, so also in the presence of AtmA j~nAnam [knowledge of Atman (Brahman)], born from shAstra pramANa [scriptures as the source of that knowledge], the ignorance cover having been removed from it, the AtmA becomes evident, as though it is revealing itself.” (Shankara bhAShya Mundaka Upanishad, 3.2.3)

    “‘I the AtmA alone am Brahman’ – only by that knowledge ignorance of oneself is negated, along with desire and karma.” (sambandha bhAShya to the Taittiriya Upanishad)

    ““By religious disciplines one destroys impurities, and by knowledge one attains mokSha.” (Manu smRRiti 12-104)

    “The cessation of ignorance alone is commonly called liberation, like the disappearance of the snake, for instance, from the rope when the erroneous notion about its existence has been dispelled.” (bhAShya on the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 4.4.6)

    How many more quotations do you need?

    Finally, Venkat, do YOU understand the meaning of j~nAnam in satyam j~nAnam anantam brahma? Have you read Shankara’s analysis in brahmAnandavallI of Taittiriya? The three words (satyam j~nAnam anantam) are in apposition. They are adjectives but they are lakShaNA-s, not visheShaNa-s. They negate the usually understood meanings. It is only by considering how each restricts and modifies the meaning of the other two that the phrase can be understood as to how it applies to Brahman. Because the j~nAnam is anantam, for example, it has to be other than the usual meaning of knower, known or knowledge. The root ‘j~nA’, also being satyam, is rather understood as ‘Consciousness’. Shankara says “j~nAnam means j~naptiH, the unqualified knowledge. The word j~nAnam can be only taken to mean the lakShyArtha of the knowing process.”

    And so on! I suggest YOU read.

    Best wishes,
    Dennis

  18. Dennis

    I don’t disagree that the cessation of ignorance alone is liberation. BUT that ignorance is the superimposition of Self with not-Self. So it is the cessation of the superimposition. Not the scholastic knowledge that the sruti says “I am not this body-mind” which I believe.

    You quote BUB 4.4.6. But have you considered in that bhasya the following that supports this point:

    “Because he has no desires that cause the limitation of non-Brahmanhood, therefore ‘being but Brahman he is merged in Brahman’ in this very life, not after the body falls”

    Note here that it is the absence of desires (as a result of knowledge) that cause him to be merged in Brahman, not just an intellectual knowledge.

    Later in BUB 4.4.7, he uses another snake analogy to reinforce this point:

    “It is practically implied that desires concerning things other than the Self fall under the category of ignorance, and are but forms of death. Therefore on cessation of death [ie desires] the man of realisation becomes immortal . . . Just as in the world the lifeless slough of a snake is cast off by it as no more being a part of itself, so does this body discarded as non-self by the liberated man, who corresponds to the snake, lie like dead . . . he becomes disembodied”

    To repeat: Sankara is say Realisation = removal of ignorance = removal of all desires and identification with body mind. He is definitively not simply equating the removal of ignorance to acquiring scholastic knowledge from sruti. It is the application of neti neti and renunciation.

    S N Sastri clearly understood this!

  19. Dennis,

    On Taittiriya Up, I concur that I was sloppy in my point. Let me have another go.

    Advaita tells us that Brahman cannot be reached by words, and that the words of sruti are an indirect indication which serve to remove ignorance in the form of not-Self.
    The removal of not-Self, leaves Self (Satyam-jnanam-anantam) alone shining.

    This is the point that Sankara was making in the BG18.50 quote:

    “Had knowledge not been self-evident it could have been sought for like any other object of knowledge. And in that case, as a knower seeks to perceive through knowledge such objects of knowledge as pot etc, similarly the knower would have sought to perceive knowledge through another knowledge! But this is not the case. therefore knowledge is quite self-revealing, and for the very same reason the knower also is self-revealed. Hence, effort is not needed for knowledge, but only for the removal of the notion of what is not-self.”

    In Suresvara’s vartika on Taittiriya, he writes:

    578: Both knowledge and ignorance, which inhere in the mind are cognised indeed by perception. Therefore both of them are not the attributes of the Self. They belong to the sphere of name and form.
    [Note similarity to Ramanamaharisi quote I made earlier on]

    664: The Self which is free from all difference and which does not form the direct import of a sentence is experienced by is in deep sleep. And this experience is not an illusion, because it is supported by the authority of sruti.
    [Note: another area of disagreement about deep sleep!]

    665: Since consciousness which constitutes the nature of the Self (and is constant), and since the non-Self is inconstant, the knowledge which is ever-existent in Brahman-Atman removes ignorance.

  20. Dear Venkat,

    Herewith my comments on your post of Feb. 28. 20:43. I have reproduced this in the form of a dialog for simplicity. Pity we can’t have colored text in comments.

    Venkat: I don’t disagree that the cessation of ignorance alone is liberation. BUT that ignorance is the superimposition of Self with not-Self. So it is the cessation of the superimposition. Not the scholastic knowledge that the sruti says “I am not this body-mind” which I believe.

    Dennis: I don’t think you have this the right way round, Venkat. I have yet to address this topic in the ‘Confusions’ book. It is Volume 2 and I probably will not get around to it for some considerable time. But my understanding is that it is BECAUSE of avidyA that our mind superimposes wrong ideas upon what is in front of us. So we cannot simply stop superimposing. We have to get rid of the ignorance first and then we automatically no longer superimpose. It is like the rope snake. We cannot get rid of the snake. We have to learn from some other source that the object is a rope and then we automatically no longer think that it is a snake. Therefore, it is perfectly reasonable that we learn the truth from shruti and then we automatically stop thinking of everything as separate. What we SEE does not change. And we still have to use the same NAMES when we wish to communicate with another human form. But we now know that all is really Brahman.

    Venkat: You quote BUB 4.4.6. But have you considered in that bhasya the following that supports this point:
    “Because he has no desires that cause the limitation of non-Brahmanhood, therefore ‘being but Brahman he is merged in Brahman’ in this very life, not after the body falls”
    Note here that it is the absence of desires (as a result of knowledge) that cause him to be merged in Brahman, not just an intellectual knowledge.

    Dennis: We have discussed ‘merging in Brahman’ before. This is a meaningless and misleading concept. We are already Brahman because there is only Brahman. Desires belong to the mind and we are not the mind. This is what has to be learned.

    Venkat: Later in BUB 4.4.7, he uses another snake analogy to reinforce this point:
    “It is practically implied that desires concerning things other than the Self fall under the category of ignorance, and are but forms of death. Therefore on cessation of death [ie desires] the man of realisation becomes immortal . . . Just as in the world the lifeless slough of a snake is cast off by it as no more being a part of itself, so does this body discarded as non-self by the liberated man, who corresponds to the snake, lie like dead . . . he becomes disembodied”
    To repeat: Sankara is saying that Realisation = removal of ignorance = removal of all desires and identification with body mind. He is definitively not simply equating the removal of ignorance to acquiring scholastic knowledge from sruti. It is the application of neti neti and renunciation.
    S N Sastri clearly understood this!

    Dennis: ‘Becoming (literally) disembodied’ is videha mukti. Shankara points out in BSB 1.1.4 that the Self is never embodied. It is ignorance again that makes us identify with it. Once the ignorance is removed, the wrong idea goes also.

    Renunciation is another huge topic (on which I know we disagree). You will have to wait for issue of Volume 1 to discover where you are going wrong.

    Venkat (from earlier post): Let me also remind you of a comment by Sastri on the advaitin list which Ramesam pointed out some time ago. He commented that he – and others on the advaitin list- may be proficient in advaita, but were not jnanis. He went on to explain that this was because disidentification with the body-mind had not happened. He clearly understood that knowledge that you are not the body-mind is different from disidentification / dissolution of the I.

    Dennis: It seems to me, Venkat, that you are now effectively agreeing with what I was saying several months ago – on the topic of pratibandha-s! I said that one can gain Self-knowledge but still not enjoy j~nAna phalam because of habitual ‘obstacles’ in the mind. You are now saying (and I believe Ramesam is also agreeing with you) that one can gain ‘intellectual’ knowledge of Advaita but still not be a j~nAnI because of remaining ‘identifications’ in the mind. Where is the difference? As far as I can see, you are just confusing the terms of j~nAna and jIvanmukti, and trying to devalue the gaining of Self-knowledge from shruti and guru.

    Apart from the issue of deep-sleep, I don’t see any points of disagreement in your second post. (Mar. 1, 10:53)

    Best wishes,
    Dennis

  21. Venkat,

    Just a quick addition regarding renunciation. Shankara concludes his commentary on Brihad. 4.4.7 with the words:
    “Even if renunciation were a means to liberation, it would not necessitate the request ‘(Please instruct me) further about liberation itself’, because renunciation MERELY SERVES TO MATURE SELF-KNOWLEDGE, WHICH IS THE MEANS OF LIBERATION.

    Dennis

  22. Dennis

    I think we are at the nub of our different interpretations.

    Firstly, you interpret avidya / superimposition to arise in the mind; and therefore knowledge removes that incorrect assumption, and life continues. In that context the sadhanas of vairagya, etc are a seperate exercise, that may help the mind be more focused in understanding knowledge and gaining peace, but is not a pre-requisite for the former. Hence the view that sadhanas can be continued post-realisation in order to be a jivanmukta.

    My understanding is that the mind itself is the result of avidya, the incorrect superimposition of consciousness with what is insentient, as articulated in Sankara’s introduction to BSB and his bhasya to BG18.50:

    “The Self is supremely taintless, pure and subtle; and it can also be established that the intellect can have taintlessness, etc like the Self, and can take a form resembling the Self. The mind becomes impressed with the semblance of the intellect; the organs become impressed with the semblance of the mind; and the body becomes impressed with the semblance of the organs . . . INDEED IN EVERY CASE, BEGINNING FROM THE INTELLECT TO THE BODY, THE CAUSE OF MIS-CONCEIVED SELFHOOD IS THE SEMBLANCE OF THE CONSCIOUSNESS THAT IS THE SELF”

    From your initial assumption about the mind having the avidya, and despite the fact that Sankara uses the terms merging into Brahman, dissolving into Brahman, becoming Brahman across his commentaries – you choose to say that this is a meaningless concept and should not be taken literally because we are already Brahman. And yet Sankara, knowing this, uses these terms!

    However, if you take my interpretation, then it makes sense, because once knowledge removes ignorance, the superimposition, and therefore desires, then one truly ‘becomes’ Brahman. Brhad 4.4.7 says:

    “When all the desire that dwell in his heart (mind) are gone, then he, having been mortal becomes immortal and attains Brahman in this very body. Just as the lifeless slough of a snake is cast off and lies in the ant-hill, so does this body lie. THEN the Self becomes disembodied and immortal, Brahman, the light”

    Sankara’s bhasya on this verse reinforces the sense of this verse, rather than qualifies it in the way you are doing:
    “It is practically implied that desires concerning things other than the Self fall under the category of ignorance and are but forms of death. Therefore on the cessation of death, the man of realisation becomes immortal . . . liberation living in this very body.”

    This verse is also very clear about liberation meaning being disembodied, whilst living in this very body. So one has to inquire what could Sankara mean by this apparent contradiction. Surely he is not seeking to mislead through his comments? Therefore there must be a deeper meaning to that – the idea that ‘I’-sense, the subject-object duality dissolves. Again this then hits the other area of disagreement, which is how does the world continue for a jnani.

    Next on jnani vs jivanmukta – I am not agreeing with you at all! I think the sequence of verses in Brahd 4.4.5 / 6 point out very clearly that ‘desire is the root of transmigratory existence’, and hence talks about self-knowledge means the removal of ignorance, which necessarily means the removal of desire:

    “Because he has no desires that CAUSE THE LIMITATION OF NON-BRAHMANHOOD, therefore being but Brahman, he is merged in Brahman in this very life not after his body falls”

    So I would suggest, knowledge is gained from Sruti / teacher, and Self-Knowledge is gained through continually reflecting on that, such that the ego is attenuated, and desires all fall away, like the skin of a snake. Until that level of attenuation – disembodiedness in Sankara’s words – occurs, one cannot be said to be liberated, a jnani.

    As for renunciation . . well, if there are no desires, if one is disembodied, one has essentially renounced everything. In Ashtavakra’s words,’like dry leaf blown in the wind’.

    Your quote on renunciation is confusing, and perhaps has been mis-translated, because throughout Brhad, Sankara emphasises renunciation, which is congruent with his cogent articulation of desirelessness (and disembodiedness). Nevertheless, in your quote, he still does say that “renunciation (merely??) serves to mature Self-knowledge, which is the means of liberation”.

    The context of the discussion leading up to your quote is: why Janaka, if all the instruction on liberation had been given, only offered a thousand cows and not his whole kingdom. Sankara writes:
    “There is something more to be explained; though liberation which is attainable through Self-Knowledge has been explained, a part of the latter [ie Self-knowledge], viz the relinquishment of desires that is called renunciation is yet to be described . . . as we have already said renunciation is not a mere eulogy on Self-Knowledge”

    Perhaps Ramesam can shed more light on this particular quote that you provided, from the end of Brhad 4.4.7?

    In conclusion, you are interpreting Sankara’s words to provide a rational explanation for the mind on how it can achieve self-knowledge and peace; and are therefore taking the mind as a given ‘entity’.

    However, whilst you say that you are relying on Sankara’s words, you are actually using your initial mental frame to pick and choose which of Sankara’s words you accept, and which you state should not be taken literally.

    If you take his commentaries and that of Gaudapada holistically, and try to reconcile the apparent contradictions, you can come to a different, albeit more ‘mystical’ explanation – essentially about the ego / mind dissolving, which the mind obviously does not care for.

    I guess that is up to each of us to figure out, rather than saying the other is confused or mistaken.

    With best wishes,
    venkat

  23. Venkat,

    I especially do not want to discuss saMnyAsa. I have written about this at length in the book but it is not a topic that particularly interests me. So, just to very briefly answer you on this. You queried the translation of ‘merely’. This was from Madhavananda. I did get my Complete Shankara (in Sanskrit) down of the shelf but it would take me all morning to find what word is actually used – perhaps Ramesam could find it quickly?

    So here is another translation, from Som Raj Gupta, which is even clearer:

    “Renunciation is not, for Janaka, a direct cause of liberation as self-knowledge is. As a subsidiary act in a sacrifice is dispensed with when it has served its purpose, so is renunciation of no further use when it has served the purpose of making one attain to self-knowledge; only this latter will then lead one to liberation. One is to resort to renunciation, even as the traditional wisdom would say, give up one’s body but only for the purpose of self-knowledge. (With that attained, it will have served its final purpose.) So, if renunciation is a means to liberation, it is a means only in the sense that it helps one get steadfastly established in self-knowledge, that means true to liberation. So, any request on the part of the knig for further instruction on liberation was out of the question.” (Ref. 102)

    Response to rest later today.

    Best wishes,
    Dennis

  24. Venkat,

    You gave a rather long response, with a number of issues and I will try to address these briefly and not get involved in further lengthy discussions.

    1) A significant degree of sAdhana chatuShTaya sampatti is necessary in order to prepare the mind. If the mind is not ‘completely purified’, then j~nAna phalam may not fully manifest post enlightenment. So, yes, you can continue SCS or, more usually, do nididhyAsana (Vedic meditation).

    2) I already admitted that I have still to tackle the very large topic of ‘Ignorance’ (avidyA, adjhyAsa, mAyA, etc.). But you say “My understanding is that the mind itself is the result of avidya, the incorrect superimposition of consciousness with what is insentient.” This makes no sense at all. Where does this superimposition take place then, if the mind is a result of it?

    3) Regarding ‘merging in Brahman’, Brihadaranyaka Upanishad bhAShya (4.4.6): “(Therefore) the statement ‘He is merged in Brahman’ is but a figurative one, meaning the cessation, as a result of knowledge, of the continuous chain of bodies for one who has held an opposite view.” (Ref. 8)

    4) Yes, Shankara DOES use figurative expressions, and metaphors, and stories in order to explain scriptures. Just as well he does or there would be fewer enlightened people. But he also warns against taking such statements literally if they conflict with reason/experience as I have quoted several times in the past.

    5) Removing desires is part of SCS, BEFORE shravaNa-manana, not something relevant post-enlightenment. Once one knows that one is Brahman, this automatically removes the power of desires. What satisfied desire could be relevant when one is already pUrNam?

    6) The concept of disembodiedness is clearly not one to be taken literally. Shankara himself speaks in numerous places about prArabdha karma meaning that the body-mind continues ‘like the loosed arrow’ or ‘potters wheel’ after enlightenment. Even in this Upanishad bhAShya (1.4.10): “For the fructification of past acts that has brought this body into being is already under way and must pursue its course, like an arrow that has been loosed from the bow.” ‘Becoming disembodied’ has to be understood as ‘realizing that one is not the body’.

    Best wishes,
    Dennis

  25. Dear Dennis and Venkat,

    As far as I can make out, the word “samnyAsa” as used in the Shankara bhAShya-s can be tricky. It has no single one uniform meaning. Unfortunately, we do not as yet know how Dennis has presented it in his forthcoming book.

    IMHO, samnyAsa may refer to:
    1. The renunciation of the three ‘eShaNa-s’ – the desire for wealth; desire for wife (health and sex); desire for progeny.
    2. The renunciation of nitya, naimittika, kAmya karma rituals.
    3. The samnyAsha Ashrama – the 4th life stage. Or
    4. The Institution of smanyAsis.

    So every time Shankara uses the word, we have to understand in what sense he uses it. It may not always refer to the wearing of ochre robes and shaving off the head – an extraneous symbolism (to make one look less sexy!?).
    Some times Shankara uses the term, paramArtha samnyAsa (e.g. 6.2, BGB, 18.3, BGB etc.).

    For Shankara, the highest samnyAsa is “naishkarmya siddhi.” The verse 18.49, BG says:
    “He whose reason is not attached anywhere, whose self is subdued, from whom desire has fled, he by renunciation attains the supreme state of freedom from action.”

    Shankara writes at 18.49, BG: “He whose reason (buddhi, antahkaraNa) is free from attachment to sons, wife and other objects of attachment, whose self (antahkaraNa) is brought under his own control, from whom desire for the body, for life, and for pleasures has fled, a person of this sort who knows the Self, attains to the supreme perfection, to absolute freedom from action (naiShkarmyasiddhi), by samnyAsa. ln virtue of his knowledge of the unity of the actionless (niShkriya) brahman and the Self, all actions have fled from him· This is known as the state of absolute freedom from action …”

    regards,

  26. Dear Dennis,

    In your response to Venkat, you made six points. I felt that I should record my reaction at least on the first and the last ones.
    1. Under point #1, you seem to suggest that nididhyAsana is a sort of continuity or it makes good for inadequate SCS. I am not sure that will be an acceptable definition for nididhyAsana to many Advaitins. Secondly, we discussed many times previously on these pages about the ill-conceived concept of “jnAna phalam” to which Swami Vivekananda also seems to contribute. I will not like to belabor on it again now.

    2. Under point # 6, you appear to equate disembodiment with the realization that ‘one is not the body.’ Perhaps, it is a casual expression made by you here. As you may be aware, there are deep technical problems with such an equation. Disembodiedness means much much more. For example, if one realizes that s/he is space-like, even that amounts to embodiedness. Secondly, Shankara impresses on us that asharIratva is being formlessness, and hence, all-pervasion. Therefore, disembodiedness is the realization that “I am formless, all-pervasive That. (1.2.22, kaTha may be relevant in this context).

    regards,

  27. Dear Ramesam,

    Surely this is the same problem of taking the word too literally? I can agree that it is the understanding that, IN REALITY, ‘I am formless, all pervasive That’. But it is still the mind that is doing this understanding and that mind is still associated with a body.

    Best wishes,
    Dennis

  28. Dear Dennis,

    I am often quite sloppy with words. In contrast you always claimed to be pedantic and punctilious with words and thier meaning. Such being the case, your charge (suggestion) that I am taking the words too literally will not and cannot stick to me. That has to be your prerogative! But strangely, you seem to give up being a stickler for word meanings now! 🙂

    Re: “I am formless, all pervasive That’:
    You say that “it is still the mind that is doing this understanding and that mind is still associated with a body.”

    That ‘mind (which is) still associated with a body’ is our day-to-day mind with its autobiographical memories, expertise, knowledge etc., carrying in its memory information like: I am a Brit, I am born in 2000, I live near London, I like apple pie, 2+2 is four, etc. etc.

    The day-to-day mind is the mind with a strong “dehAtma bhAva” – concerned with the safety, image and security of the body, identifying itself with the body.

    If “X” = an idea, object, concept, belief etc., such a mind modulates itself in the form of “X” (X-AkAra vRitti) and projects that ‘X’ external to itself when we get the feel, ‘I perceive the object.’ It is a finite mind and it can NEVER understand the Reality as 2.4.1, taittirIya says.

    But then, 4.4.19, brihat echoing 2.4.11, kaTha tells us that the mind is the only ‘doorway’ we have to the Truth.

    What is then this ‘mind’ which is the doorway? It HAS GOT TO BE DIFFERENT FROM the day-to-day mind.

    This mind which can act as the “doorway” is the one which has transformed itself into being a mind that is focused (vide 2.41, BG), and also subtle and sharp (vide 1.3.12, kaTha). It is referred to as the intellect.

    In addition, it is a mind (intellect) that has dropped its ‘dehAtma bhAva’ through renunciation (samnyAsa) – renunciation of particularly the first two items of what I listed in my previous post about “samnyAsa.”

    As Shankara expresses at several places in BSB, BGB, BUB etc., samnyAsa is a “necessary” (but not “sufficient”) condition for Self-knowledge. samnyAsa is like oxygen – it cannot ignite but it is necessary for the fire to burn. That is why Shankara says at 4.4.7, brihat, as you also quoted, that samnyAsa cannot “cause” Self-knowledge but is necessary and refers at 4.4.7, brihat to what he mentioned at 3.5.1, brihat about the requirement of samnyAsa – it is not a mere eulogy but a necessity. He says ‘samnyAsa’ is an “injunction.”

    When the usually fluctuating mind becomes steady, focused and sharp and has renounced the dehAtma buddhi, it becomes fit to modulate itself in the form of the Infinite brahman (akhaNDAkAra vRitti – a term coined perhaps by Sadanandayati).

    Such an akhaNDAkAra vRitti will be ‘carama vRitti’ when the mind (buddhi) does not anymore return to its old ways. Of course, Shankara does not use the word carama vRitti, but indicates essentially the same notion using words like antyam pramANa (vide 2.18, 2.69, BG).

    Shankara is very categorical as to who can get mokSha. While introducing 2.70, BG. He says:

    “The Lord proceeds to teach, by an illustration, that that
    devotee only who is wise, who has abandoned desires, and
    whose wisdom is steady, can attain moksha, but not he who,
    without renouncing, cherishes a desire for objects of pleasure.”

    And that precisely shows the difference between the incapable mind entwined with the belief, “I am the body,” and the steady, renounced intellect that has dropped dehAtma buddhi.

    To sum up, the normal mind is jumpy, obtuse and forgetful; but a sharp and steady mind will remind one that what-IS is all the Supreme Self and that the Self is one’s true nature. Through such a mind one experiences the Self everywhere.

    regards,

    • “The day-to-day mind is the mind with a strong “dehAtma bhAva” – concerned with the safety, image and security of the body, identifying itself with the body.
      But then, 4.4.19, brihat echoing 2.4.11, kaTha tells us that the mind is the only ‘doorway’ we have to the Truth. What is then this ‘mind’ which is the doorway? It HAS GOT TO BE DIFFERENT FROM the day-to-day mind.
      This mind which can act as the “doorway” is the one which has transformed itself into being a mind that is focused (vide 2.41, BG), and also subtle and sharp (vide 1.3.12, kaTha). It is referred
      ”When the usually fluctuating mind becomes steady, focused and sharp and has renounced the dehAtma buddhi, it becomes fit to modulate itself in the form of the Infinite brahman (akhaNDAkAra vRitti – a term coined perhaps by Sadanandayati).And that precisely shows the difference between the incapable mind entwined with the belief, “I am the body,” and the steady, renounced intellect that has dropped dehAtma buddhi. To sum up, the normal mind is jumpy, obtuse and forgetful; but a sharp and steady mind will remind one that what-IS is all the Supreme Self and that the Self is one’s true nature. Through such a mind one experiences the Self everywhere.”

      In our group discussions we were dwelling on two contradictory statements (on surface) between Taittriya & Katha – One cannot reach thru mind vs only thru mind one can reach it. Your post gets us closer to resolving this in favor of the latter. We found that Pancadasi 7.19,20 resonates with what you posted. The dehatma buddhi has to transform into akhandakarvritti – this has to be permanent like bug turning into butterfly, then you will be free (even if you do not want to be so).
      Panchadasi 7.19.20
      19. In speaking of himself the common man seems to be convinced of his identity with the body. A similar conviction about this Self as Brahman is necessary for liberation. This is the meaning of’this’ in’I am this’.
      20. When a man is as firmly convinced of his identity with Brahman as an ordinary man is convinced of his identity with the body, he is liberated even if he does not wish for it.
      The english translation of Pancadasi 7.20 above by Swahananda is very cryptic and may not drive the point but the one by Ramavtar Vidyabhaskar in hindi literally translates into what is described by you.

      Only caution a seeker has to follow is that this is not achieved just thru any chitta shuddhi algorithm (to make mind sharp and steady) like yoga but thru nidhidhyasan via scriptures. Ramesam, this aspect you need to emphasize more in to your post which you did regrading samyasa. May be that is what Taitriya means when it says that mind with just mechanical modification of the mind will not cut it. And that fits in with Katha that only thru mind that has dropped dehtama buddhi forever (akhandakar) you will reach it. That mind has to turn itself into a doll of salt
      Reply ↓

  29. Dear Ramesam,

    My understanding of Advaita is that EVERYONE has an antaHkArana, having functions of manas (the ‘routine’ mind) and buddhi (intellect). The difference between the j~nAnI and the aj~nAnI is that the mind/intellect of the former had been ‘purified’ to a large degree by sAdhana chatuShtaya sampatti prior to shravaNa with a guru. It is that which enabled the one-who-is-now-a-j~nAnI to take on board the teaching and acquire akhANDAkAra vRRitti.

    But all this is irrelevant isn’t it. The realization still takes place in a mind, which is still associated with a body. Nothing that you have said changes that. Or are you now saying that a mind that has acquired akhANDAkAra vRRitti somehow dispenses with its associated body??

    Best wishes,
    Dennis

  30. Dear Dennis,

    [I went on editing my above Comment for better readability and clarity. I hope you have read the latest version of it – as I know now that you have seen it, I will not make any further improvements.]

    I tried to bring out to the best of my ability in my previous comment, the basic difference between our day-to-day mind and the mind (intellect) in which the ‘carama vRitti’ can take place citing relevant scriptural references. IMHO, one can confidently say that the carama vRitti (antya pramANam) will NOT and CANNOT happen in the normal mind. Though one may say in common parlance that the “Realization” happens in the mind, technically that is too loose a statement. The state, texture, quality of the two minds are vastly different.

    The SCM can, as you say, help purify the mind. SCM by itself cannot make a mind susceptible for “Realization.” What SCM helps in is to attenuate the rajasic and tamasic qualities of the mind and make it predominantly of ‘sAttvic’ nature. For the ‘carama vRitti’ to happen, even the sAttvic guNa has to end (nistraiguNyobhava, 2.45, BG).

    SCM can make the mind sAttvic and ready for shravaNa,. manana and ‘nididhyAsana.’ As Shankara suggests (I forget the exact reference – perhaps at 2.1.35, or 3.2.40, BSB), a mix of Grace + the individual’s effort can only bring about Self-realization. Self-realization is not, IMHO, a linear deterministic process – I do ‘x’ amount of SCM, and so I should get Self-realization. Whatever it is, we have to agree that there is no resemblance between the two minds – the initial one the seeker starts with and the final one when the carama vRitti takes place, though we may say loosely that the realization happens in the mind. The initial mind comes with certain conditionalities and bounds. On Self-realization, all bounds are shattered and it becomes synonymous with brahman in nature.

    You have posed the question: ” Or are you now saying that a mind that has acquired akhANDAkAra vRRitti somehow dispenses with its associated body??”

    To my understanding, the scriptures are clear that even a hair’s breadth of seeing difference (nAnatva), is duality. If still a link is maintained with the body, obviously, the seeker has not overcome all her attachments. It will not be Self-realization if attachment to the body continues. In fact, it is well known that deha vAsana is the toughest to get rid off. One must be able to be detached with the body. a la 4.4.7, BUB,, like the snake crawling away after shedding its slough.

    Further, one identifies oneself on Self-realization, with the disembodied Oneness (1.2.22, kaTha) which is asanga (unattached – 4.3.15, BU; 2, brahmajnAnAvalImAlA) and Infinite. No linkage with sharIra remains. No apron strings continue.

    Immediately, people will jump asking questions about a jIvanmukta. Let us not at this stage bother about jIvanmukta. Let us focus on getting Self-realized.

    regards,

  31. I have already quoted 1.3.12, kaTha in a comment above.

    “This mind which can act as the “doorway” is the one which has transformed itself into being a mind that is focused (vide 2.41, BG), and also subtle and sharp (vide 1.3.12, kaTha). It is referred to as the intellect.”

    regards,

  32. Dear Ramesam,

    There is a mind that is totally unable to follow shravaNa-manana and there is a mind, suitably prepared by SCS, that is receptive to shravaNa-manana. It is the SAME mind, initially in an impure state (as you say, governed by rajas and tamas), and later in a pure state (governed primarily by sattva).

    And minds do not exist separate from a body, except in between lives, according to Advaita as I know it. The link with the body continues until prArabdha is exhausted.

    This is all perfectly in accord with Shankara. Why try to complicate things?

    In Katha 1.3.12, Shankara says:

    “AtmA is nothing else but one’s own true nature and therefore the VERY UNDERSTANDING ITSELF (avagatireva) of the true nature of oneself is ‘figuratively expressed as attainment’ (gatirityupacharyate) of mokSha.”

    I can understand that there is a reluctance to accept that enlightenment is ‘merely’ an intellectual understanding. But try dropping the ‘merely’ and see if that helps!

    Best wishes,
    Dennis

  33. Hi Vijay,

    Thank you for your observations.

    I fully agree with you when you say that [liberation] “is not achieved just thru any chitta shuddhi algorithm (to make mind sharp and steady) like yoga but thru nidhidhyasan via scriptures.”

    I normally assume that one has already passed through the mental and bodily disciplinary training (including what Dennis calls SCS – sAdhana catuShTaya sampatti) before discussing in depth the Knowledge Path. As Shankara says at 11, vivekacUDAmaNi, karma/yoga etc. are for the purification of the mind. A purified mind impels one to take up Self-inquiry. Beyond that, as you say, they cannot help one to attain Self-knowledge.

    Though the term SCS was not so popular in the days when Sage Valmiki wrote Yogavasishta, a reference is made to the very terms of SCS right in the beginning. The second chapter contains a detailed exposition of SCS. There it is said:

    “If you want to learn music, it is not enough if you get by heart the names of ‘rAgA-s’ (tunes). Initially, you should practice for a tone to master the three levels of, higher, middle and lower, pitch. In the same way, if you want to experientially realize ‘Atma vidya’ (Self Knowledge), you must first fulfill certain pre-requisites. The pre-requisites define the eligibility (adhikAra). They constitute the Fourfold Aids of Seeking (sAdhana catuShTaya saMpatti).”

    After a detailed explanation of each of the terms, Sage Vasishta says:

    “Rama! A seeker should acquire the fourfold treasures of sAdhana catuShTaya through constant effort. A few people get scared when we talk in detail about sAdhana catuShTaya saMpatti. They doubt if they can ever undertake such a task. But a person, who is skillful, will easily attain sAdhana catuShTaya saMpatti. For example, a Gemmologist can
    easily recognize a real and pure gemstone in a heap of cobble and rubble. He has the mastery of the technique in picking the precious stone. Similarly one who aspires to acquire the sAdhana catuShTaya saMpatti should also get hold of necessary skills. Three approaches are available for this.

    “The three clues that aid in the successful achievement of sAdhana catuShTaya saMpatti are sadAcAra (good conduct), satsAngatya (association with noble people) and sacchAstra (holy scriptures).”

    The text then goes on to explain these three clues. You may refer to the Part 2 of Yogavasishta for the full text.

    Thus, you can easily see that the SCS gives an eligibility for pursuing Self-inquiry and it itself does not liberate.

    regards,

  34. Dear Dennis,

    I begin my response to your latest post (March 5, 2021 at 09:38) with a sincere apology and a sense of inadequacy on my part. Because, I do not know how to reply! ):

    While the broad-brush picture you give looks okay superficially, I see many problems in it. Believe you me, I am not saying this to establish any puerile one-upmanship; nor am I desirous of having “he said-she said” arguments.

    I am listing below a few places where I have difficulty. I do not mean I am correct. I honestly wish we could cross-check with some Pundits who are knowledgeable of the shAstra-s.

    1. Does “mind,” which by its nature is nothing but ‘movement,’ ever remain the same as if it is a container? Can we think of the mind as a container? Or is it the imaginary claimant of ownership of each thought that remains apparently the “same”?

    2. Do the three guaNa-s “govern” the mind or they constitute the mind?

    3. Can’t the mind exist separated from the gross body? Does not the mind leave the gross body every night when it projects a different world as a dream? Do Hiranyagarbha, Ishwara have bodies? Are they not just minds?

    4. Does not the mind ditch the body and run away with prAna when we say the gross body is dead? Does not then that mind acquire a new gross body? Does this not show that a mind has no commitment to any particular physical body?

    5. It is science which states that the mind is a function of the body (brain). But Advaita says that a body is a creature of the mind.

    6. Shankara says at 1.1.6, BSB, “Self is the same as one’s essence.” A clay pot does not have to specially do anything to be clay. A gold ornament does not have to do/say anything to be gold. But the very thought of a ‘me’ like ‘I am gold” separates it from what it IS.

    7. Does not 2.3.2, muNDaka say that “This Atman cannot be attained by dint of study or intelligence or much hearing —whom he wishes to attain — by that it can be attained. To him this Atman “reveals” its true nature.”

    8. When one says, “there is a reluctance to accept that enlightenment is ‘merely’ an intellectual understanding. But try dropping the ‘merely’ and see if that helps!,” I add to it: “Drop ‘intellectual’ and also ‘understanding’ and see if it helps

    Shankara says at 18.50, BGB: “Wherefore cognition is self-revealed, and therefore, also, is the Congiser self-revealed.” So brahman “reveals Itself!”

    9. Shankara also says at 18.50, BGB: “Wherefore it is only a cessation of the perception of the differentiated forms of the external world that can lead to a firm grasp of the real nature of the Self.”

    10. brahman can never be a percipient of Itself.

    regards,

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